Faith and Careful Instructions

Life is a balance. I constantly look for the plumb-line of truth and the balance between not being anxious, but also being careful. Wary caution marks one definition of ‘careful’. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament encourage us to be ‘careful’.

As the children of Israel were approaching the Promised Land, Moses clearly warned them: But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them onto your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 If we are going to navigate this world with wary caution, we need to remember what God has done for us as well. Do you remember the joy of your first salvation? Maybe the freedom you felt and the closeness to the Lord? Do you remember how He has answered your prayers? Perhaps how He kept you safe during crisis times? As we remember His faithfulness, it will help us be careful to keep His commandments and walk in obedience. Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 4:28

Being careful does not mean we hole up, scared and fearful. His word tells us: Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Joshua 1:7. It is through careful obedience that gives us the confidence that He is with us. As we listen to His voice, obeying those instructions, we will be assured of great success.

1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us about us! If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptations to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. We must be careful about not walking in any of the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Galations 5:19-21 We don’t like to think about these things, but if we do not walk with wary caution, we can fall into any of these sinful desires.

We also must be careful how we live our lives, because we influence others. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weak conscious to stumble. I Corinthians 8:9 I am strong in my own conviction about not drinking alcoholic beverages. The Holy Spirit told me I liked it too much, and for my own good to choose not to drink. This was back in 1972. I have kept those instructions because I trust His wisdom more than mine. Others have to come to their own conviction in the matter. Alcoholism runs in our family’s history, so rather than take that liberty, we’ve chosen to abstain. I pray it is one example we can give our grandchildren.

We also must be careful how we live our lives, because we influence others. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weak conscious to stumble. I Corinthians 8:9 I am strong in my own conviction about not drinking alcoholic beverages. The Holy Spirit told me I liked it too much, and for my own good to choose not to drink. This was back in 1972. I have kept those instructions because I trust His wisdom more than mine. Others have to come to their own conviction in the matter. Alcoholism runs in our family’s history, so rather than take that liberty, we’ve chosen to abstain. I pray it is one example we can be to our grandchildren.

I Corinthians 10: 12 If you are think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptations to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. This is a promise to us a way out of temptation. But unless we use wary caution, may fall into the works of the flesh. The New Living Translation describes them as sinful desires. Galations 5: 19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Whew, that is a lot. Some are easy for me to avoid (like drunkenness) others are more subtle like jealousy, anger or quarreling. No matter which one is your weak spot, we need to walk carefully around these pitfalls.

Hebrews 2:1 instructs us: So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. Drifting is very subtle. It is not a deliberate action, but just a subtle slipping away from the truth you once held dear. Our culture is working to re-write history and re-interpret scriptures that were long held true. Please do not let go of the truth. Cling carefully to it.

Hebrews 3:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. Let us remember the price He paid for our salvation. Let us choose to walk with Him so we can know Him and bring Him all the glory He deserves through our lives.

Faith and An Easter Prayer

Father, as many are getting ready to celebrate “Easter”, I ask that you help us turn our hearts toward you. I thank for opening our hearts, ears and eyes to see the work of the cross in fresh new ways. We may know it is not about bunnies and eggs, but still not fully comprehend the power that was released in us and ultimately through us that eventful day. Forgive us for giving lip service, not heart service to you. Even those who are walking close beside you can get so caught up in presenting the ‘perfect’ Easter service—sharing your love with others, but forget to really embracing that love and power themselves. Lord, I thank you that no matter where we are in our relationship with you, you are there. I pray for you {us!} asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called-his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:16-20. I ask you, Father, that you will continue teaching us how to walk in your power and might. I stand with everyone who is facing difficulties asking for courage to be imparted a fresh and anew in their lives. I thank you that you are as strong today as ever. Your heart is towards your people and waiting for us to release our faith in every difficult test and trials.

I ask you to release that confident hope Paul prayed for into our hearts. Many are facing marathon struggles in so many areas of life. From fighting drug or alcohol addictions, caring for disabled loved ones, watching prodigal children turn away from you—help them remember your love, mercy, and hope still applies. I thank you for refreshing everyone who is growing weary in their marriage, parenting or careers. I thank you for renewing that hope today, dear Father.

You asked your disciples in Luke 9; who do people say I am? They gave various responses, but then Jesus turned to them and asked a very personal response: but who do you say I am? I ask you, Father, to help us be able to answer that question in our own hearts. Please continue to show us who you are in reality. Let us continue to grow in our relationship with you.

Father, as we hear the story of your suffering on the cross, let us remember it was our sin who put you there. You did it willingly because of your love. After Peter replies to Jesus’ question: You are the Messiah sent from God. Jesus told them of his coming suffering. Then he told them if any of you want to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Father, I thank you for giving us the grace and mercy to pick up our cross and follow you, even when the way gets tough, knowing we are not alone.

Thank you, dear Savior, for your suffering. Thank you for your forgiveness. We need it. We have it. Help us apply it to every dark and shameful place. Thank you that your finished work on Calvary frees us for all sin and shame. Give us fresh eyes to see you. Give us fresh ears to hear you. Give us fresh voices to thank you, In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and the House of Mourning Part 2

Ecclesiastes 7:2 It is better to go into the house of mourning, than to go into the house of feasting. After writing House of Mourning last week, some feedback and my own pondering led me to write part 2. This is much more of my own personal journey.

Most homes, when entered by the main entrance, have some sort of foyer or meeting place. I think it is true for the house of mourning as well. Fear, pain, and confusion keep many people from truly entering the house. They linger there, but do not really embrace the opportunity it affords. Sometimes we want to escape our deny our grief, so we run to the house of feasting. But somehow it doesn’t bring the expected relief. Others turn to alcohol, drugs or even unhealthy relationships to dull the pain. Prescribed medications or a glass of wine may be good for you, if it doesn’t turn into an addiction.

Years ago the Holy Spirit warned me against the use of alcohol because of family addictions (my biological father was an alcoholic); so I stayed away from that. (Even though the temptation came!) A more socially accepted escape is busyness! Just keep going until you can’t go any more. One of my “escapes” was binge watching TV shows. Netflix was my friend and filled the quiet of my home. I couldn’t do movies, because TV shows were about all I could focus on. It is in the “foyer” time that listening to the Holy Spirit is very important. There came a time where He showed me I needed to balance television with other things. As we follow Him, there is never condemnation, but only the loving teacher and guide that shows us what is best for us. This is where we must release our faith and our trust.

As I allowed Him to lead me past the foyer and teach me about my grief, greater peace came. I had to silence the television and listen to the Spirit. Worship music filled my home and my heart. As I turned to Him through journaling and prayer, I could feel His restoration taking place. I will admit, it was a much slower and harder process than I expected. I asked Him one day, can’t you just take this pain away, and He said no. I want you to learn from it. So I said, fine, then teach me and help me. I felt alone often, because there is a balance between wanting people to help and reach out to you and being (in your head) the “needy” one. I think pride gets involved in some ways as well, which keeps you from asking for help when needed. I also was concerned for my children, who were walking their own grief journey as well. They were concerned for me, and I for them. I am so grateful the Lord was by my side through all my ups and downs. I took comfort in David’s honesty and bared my soul to Him, which helped me learn many things about myself, some that weren’t easy! I learned there are many emotions that arise, and I had to accept that the house of mourning was a safe place for each of them; because often they are really jumbled.

One gift God gave me was a dear friend whose wife passed five months after Darryl. We could listen to each other with understanding. It was an immense help to both of us. Because we knew each other’s spouses and had history, it made it easier. One revelation the Lord gave me as I stumbled along in the house of mourning, was that He had helped many others through their grief times. I wasn’t the first person to walk this path with Him. He knew what He was doing! Somehow that helped me release my faith—which is soo needed in the house of mourning.

I also learned that not all my questions will be answered in the house of mourning. Many remain in the ‘I choose to trust you realm’, and probably will be until we see Him face to face. I’ve learned to be content with that in the house of mourning.

Please be patient with those in the house of mourning. It is not a simple place to be. Please be patient with yourself if you are in the house of mourning. He is always with us, but when I actively brought Him into my grief and allowed Him to help me navigate the house of mourning, it became much easier. “Help me Lord” was a common prayer; but when I actually looked for the help—expecting it to be given was when I entered into more of His rest.

I am not finished visiting and learning from the house of mourning by any means; but I do not fear it nor try to avoid it. It is difficult to explain the benefits of the house of mourning. The good news is He promises never to leave us, nor forsake us—and that includes the house of mourning.

Father, I ask that you walk close with those who are getting used to the house of mourning. It is hard, but you, my Father, know it is hard. I ask for courage for all of us. Courage to learn the lessons found in the house of mourning. I thank you that your Spirit is there as a comforter and guide. I thank you we will discover not only the blessing of your peace and presence, but will learn about ourselves so we can help others. Thank you for your loving care and concern. Thank you for teaching us how to live fully the life you have given us, before someone enters the house of mourning because of our passing. Please teach us how to comfort those that mourn. In Jesus Name, amen.

Faith and The House of Mourning

Eleven years ago, the Lord started me on an intense journey to learn about grief and mourning. Even though both of my parents passed many years before, I really hadn’t taken the time to learn much about it. There is a small and to me an ignored verse in Ecclesiastes 7:2. It is better to go into the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, For that [day of death] is the end of every man, And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning, Sorrow is better than laughter for when a face is sad (deep in thought) the heart may be happy; because it is growing in wisdom]. The heart of the wise [learns when it is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is [senseless] in the house of pleasure. I lost twelve people this past year. Recently a friend of over forty years joined the heavenly hosts. A blessing for him, but grief for those of us who will miss him here on earth. Once again, as I enter the house of mourning, I choose to learn from its wisdom.

My flesh does not like the house of mourning, but I have learned to embrace it, instead of fighting it. Fighting it does not change it. There is no choice when you enter the house of mourning. It is something that life sends you.

In the house of mourning, you learn that life here on earth has an ending. There will be a time when your life and mine will be over. This is a fact. Unless Jesus returns, we all will die. One of the obvious lessons I’ve learned is not to take this life for granted. It is a gift and how we choose to use it is up to us. It is up to us whether we live a life full of love, forgiveness and generosity. Or choose to live with bitterness, revenge and grudges.

One choice that confronts you in the house of mourning is a time of reflection, which often leads to consider regrets. Do you regret the things you said or did? What about the things you left unsaid? Once you enter the house of mourning for an individual, there is no going back to them. It has been eleven years since my husband suffered a severe stroke and our former life together was no more. He loved a burn pile. The one he used in our house in Connecticut was a distance from our home, but my concern for Lyme disease and ticks kept me from spending time around that fire. I wonder what dreams and discussions we could have had if I had joined him there. I will never know. Small regrets, but so real.

Another lesson learned in the house of mourning is to choose to celebrate life while you have it. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” becomes much more real. Socks on the floor, cupboards left open or dirty dishes on the counter are regulated to “small stuff”. Enjoying the person, rather than worrying about their foibles, becomes much more important.

The house of mourning can become a place of comfort. A time of growing closer to the Comforter as we allow Him to lead and guide us. They become much more than just sentimental words; they take on a fresh reality. When we choose to ask Him to help us navigate grief and loss, He shows up in amazing ways. Sometimes He sends others who come alongside us. Sometimes He just sends His Presence with His peace that passes all understanding, but if we look for Him, we will find Him. One day, a year or two after Darryl’s passing, I ask Him to help me turn my mourning into joy. Psalm 30:11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. I knew it was time, but I didn’t know how to do it on my own. I spent the first year recovering from the exhaustion of caregiving and coming to grips with the reality of my widowhood. It wasn’t a ‘bad’ year, and I definitely had some joyful times (like the birth of a new grandbaby!) but I knew there was more the Holy Spirit wanted to help me with. It was a deliberate and good prayer to pray, which I know He was waiting to for me to ask!

One joy that comes in the house of mourning is when we choose to lean on the Lord and His help we find Him. The house of mourning is not always entered with a death of a person, but it can also come with other type of losses. Loss of friends, marriage or even dreams can cause us to cross into threshold. Another thing I learned is the house of mourning is full of people. Many are there. Many are suffering alone. That is not God’s best plan. It is true a part of grief is very lonely and individualized. This is our opportunity to draw closer to our God. But His Word tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I think the body of Christ needs to get better at both! Entering the house of mourning brings a greater awareness to others who are grieving as well. It is then that we can comfort others with the comfort we have been given.

The house of mourning gives us the opportunity to grow up and grow down. Maturity happens as we grow to understand this facet of life. Digging deep into God’s Word and His promises brings heaven closer. The reality of heaven becomes clearer and dearer. Sometimes we find disappointment in the house of mourning. Disappointment in ourselves and with others. We may discover our weak areas of trust or faith as we struggle with our understanding. Sometimes we are disappointed when others don’t seem to understand our pain or loss. Growth happens when we learn that those around us may not meet our expectations and heal our hurts, but we still choose to love them. Only God really knows how to touch those hurt places in our souls. If we keep pressing on and on, we discover that hurt part of our souls restored. The house of mourning is a place to learn to forgive others and ourselves.

The house of mourning brings an understanding of walking through the shadows of death. It challenges us to not fear any evil that dwells in those shadows. We must learn to silence those dark voices that taunt and torment us about the regrets and actions that are too late to change. We learn to embrace our own need for comforters and forgiveness. Walking as a widow after many years of being a couple, I had to accept and believe that I was enough as a single. This was one of the harder lessons for me to grasp. Our culture values couples. But as I grappled with this lesson in the house of mourning, I learned to accept God’s love for me as an individual in an even greater depth. I understand Paul’s wisdom in the blessing of singleness and the opportunities it gives me.

Friends, I’ve learned a lot in the house of mourning. I know I have even more lessons to learn. Please do not fear it. It is very hard at times, but also joyous. Learning to walk through hard times is difficult, but doable. Let’s help each other by sharing the lessons we each learn in the house of mourning. Grief is easier together.

Faith and THE Voice

Last week I joined my family in celebrating the birthday of my wonderful granddaughter. They visited Woodland Park Zoo as part of her celebration. Twelve of us braved the chilly 45 degree weather in the rain to give her an adventure! Through foggy glasses and wet masks, we wandered through this amazing place. Some exhibits were closed because of Covid (the inside warm ones) but it excited us when the baby giraffe came out from its barn to entertain the kids, the orangutan turned and greeted us out from under his blanket and then promptly turned over again covering himself up from the chill. Aside from a few birds chirping, the animals were quiet.

As we wandered toward the snow leopard’s encampment, someone told my daughter, ‘oh, they are in their den’. Curious to see what they could see, they stepped closer to the viewing area. Around the building came this majestic cat. He stopped and opened his mouth—but not to roar! (Apparently snow leopard can’t roar!) The best way I can describe it as an extremely loud, screechy wail, sort of like he was saying a very long “ow”. The sound resonated throughout the zoo. My daughter-in-law was at the zoo’s entrance and heard it and wondered what it was. The sound definitely caught everyone’s attention.

As I listened, I pondered if this creature, created by our God can make such a penetrating sound, what will the voice of our God sound like, thundering from heaven? Psalm 29:3-9 declares: the voice of the Lord is upon the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 2 Samuel 22:14 The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. I’ve read these passages, but rarely really focused on the power of these descriptions, meditating on what that voice would actually sound like. After hearing this snow leopard’s voice, I can only imagine the intensity, decibel level and attention grabbing that sound it will be.

We are so blessed to have access to God’s voice as He leads us by His Spirit. The still small voice that spoke to Elijah still speaks His comforting words to us as His sheep. But I wonder if that still small voice that lovingly calls us may get drowned out by our own voice, or the voice of others? Do we give that Voice the reverence that we should? Just as a mother’s voice whispers in comfort to soothe her child, they can also raise it with danger warnings. They train their child to recognize their voice, as does our Heavenly Father. We are in His training period now.

Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet. I am sure it caught John’s attention! This is the same Voice we hear in our hearts. We discover in reading through scripture that it describes His voice as the voice of thunder and the sound of many waters. Hebrews 12:26 declares His voice shook the earth. It is hard for me to comprehend a voice that powerful, but I know it’s real.

I believe as we are moving towards globally tumultuous days, we must get a greater grasp on who our God really is. One day He will appear. One day every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. One day we will hear His voice in ultimate authority and power. Let’s practice listening now. Luke 9:35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him. It is great to hear His voice, but much better to listen and obey it.

Father, I ask that you open our ears to hear your voice, no matter how soft or loud it is. We ask you to speak to us and as Samuel once said, ‘speak, and we will listen’. I acknowledge it is a privilege and necessity to hear the voice of the Creator of the Universe in the quiet places of my heart. You are THE Voice I want to hear and obey. Thank you, dear Lord.

Faith and Respectful Speech

Our dear brother Paul wrote some very clear, but encouraging words to the church at Colossae. He gives us direct instructions on how to influence those around us. You know, those things which are so basic we all go, “oh of course”, but then find it difficult to really put into practice? Those instructions that we want others to do for us, but maybe struggle to implement ourselves?

Live wisely among those who are not believers and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. NLT Colossians 4:5-6.

Last night I had the privilege of listening to Eleah Tercero, an Assemblies of God missionary to Indonesia. She is a young woman who has been ministering to University Students for three years on the island of Java. As she was sharing, I could feel the respect she has for the young men and women that she has met. She shared stories of patient relationship building over coffee, dinner and English practice as they watch the Holy Spirit change lives.

How do we influence others? By respectful listening and then respectful speaking. This takes growing in self-control. Not easy. It starts by developing an others centered heart. It truly is not all about us. “If they respect me, then I will respect them”; not Biblical. As we develop Christ-like qualities, we learn to love the unlovely. Matthew 5:44 states: You have heard the law says; ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

There are many layers to sharing Jesus with others, but I believe we must begin by respecting them, if for no other reason than our Heavenly Father created them. He loves them. When I pray for those I struggle to respect and love, God changes my heart. Do you have a family member that isn’t acting ‘right’? Pray for them, ask the Lord to do a work in your heart first. I admit it is hard, but it is doable with the Holy Spirit’s help. Do not keep focusing and rehearsing their offenses against you, but ask the Lord how He sees the person; you may find their splinter size problem, is being enlarged by the beam in your eye.

My friends, I encourage you today to think about your speech. Is it wholesome? Is it uplifting? Encouraging? Life-giving? Remember the words of life come from our heart. Guard your heart, feast on God’s truth and His love, and it will become easier to use respectful speech, even with those we disagree.

Faith and Blinders

One day Jesus asked Peter, James and John to take a hike. Mark 9:2 describes it as a high mountain, and the purpose was to be alone. I wonder what their conversation was like as they hiked the path. Did they admire the flowers and view? Did they discuss the amazing healings and other miracles they had seen? Did they feel “special” because Jesus selected them to go on this outing? We don’t know. What we know is that when they reached the stopping place, something strange happened.

As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Wow, what a surprise. But that wasn’t the end. Moses and Elijah showed up and began talking with Jesus while the other three stood watching in amazement. Peter interrupts the conversation, Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. (Bless dear Peter, I often fill in silly things when I don’t know what else to say too!)

But there is still more of this bizarre story! Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘this is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.’ Suddenly, when they looked around, Mose and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. Whew, to hear God, the Father’s voice declaring, ‘This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him‘. How amazing. I believe that experience changed forever those three fellows. How do you hear the Father when He speaks these loving words? Do you hear His pride and concern that these men really get the heart of who and why Jesus came? I imagine they carried the words and tone of this voice forever. Do you think the Father is still trying to get His children to “listen to Him“? As they walked back down the mountain, Jesus asked them not to share the story until after His resurrection, leading them to even more pondering.

They were privileged to witness an aspect of who Jesus really is. They saw the holy power side of Him I often forget. Unless I need Him to work some miracles for me, I often forget He truly is, His Majesty. He had recently shared with them about his impending death and resurrection, but they didn’t comprehend it. The Jewish leaders taught the scriptures about the coming Messiah in the Synagogue, but I wonder if they focused on His power and might. Did they, like me, overlook the parts that told of his suffering? That is why I entitled this writing “Faith and Blinders”, because I believe there are areas where His followers still do not see clearly. We read His Word selectively. It is time to eat the whole plate. Not just the parts we like. His transfiguration showed forth His holiness and purity. It also talks about persecution, suffering and endurance for the believer. Are we prepared if that is where we find ourselves?

Philippians 2:10 declares at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I believe that the transfigured Jesus is the one we will bow to. We will comprehend who it is that we call Lord, and have no other reaction than to bow to His Lordship, humbling ourselves before Him. We don’t have to wait till then, let’s start today.

Faith and Stopping

This weekend in our area, most things came to a screeching stop. We had an unusual snowstorm that dropped over one foot of snow. This is very remarkable for our area. The weather service sent many alerts, warning people to stay off the road to stay safe. I determined to heed their warnings, cozying up and watching the wonder of God’s creation called snow.

Because of the intensity of the storm, it wasn’t hard to understand the need to stop. But sometimes we miss it. Life gets moving. Our agenda runs our schedule and we just keep going. We might miss some important God stops along the way if we are not listening carefully to the Holy Spirit.

I don’t want to get too analytical concerning all starts and stops in our life. But they happen. My daughter is experiencing a slowdown because of hernia repair surgery. She is recovering well, but for six weeks she has to be careful of her activities. Difficult for a busy mom of three. Because of her surgery, the entire family changed their routine. It was a forced stop for them all. God is using this time to help her children grow and the family to become a stronger team. This was a needed stop.

There are many stops described in the scriptures. The Israelites stopped to celebrate! When they crossed into the Promised Land, they rejoiced to see their enemies overthrown. God ordained the Passover celebrations, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of the Harvest to name a few. These declared stops encouraged them to remember what God did for them. Jesus instituted communion or the breaking of bread as a stop to take time to remember the power of the cross and what His sacrifice brought us.

When was the last time you took time to enjoy a Sabbath rest? I am old enough to remember when all stores were closed on Sundays, which forced people to change their pace. As we’ve grown to a speedy 24/7 lifestyle, we must take ownership of that precious God ordained stop. No one is going to force you to take a Sabbath rest. It is must be an intentional choice, choosing to release faith that you will get as much done in six days as you would in seven. An outside culture does not require it, but our body and soul still need that rest. Maybe if we take more truly Sabbath rests, we won’t need as many forced rests to let our body heal!

Sometimes our stops are made on the behalf of others..Read through the gospels, note how often He was interrupted! He used those interruptions to teach, touch and train not only His disciples, but all who were listening. He even had interruptions during many of His teachings. He took the time to stop and meet the immediate needs of those around Him. I wonder if I can learn to be that sensitive. As I am hosting four of my grandchildren this week, I am re-discovering how challenging it is to take time to stop and listen and respond to their wants and needs. It changes my routine, and that is not always easy.Unexpected phone calls or visitors often reveal our heart toward stops. Will we take that call? Will we welcome our guests? Do we hear of a need and ignore our part in helping meet that need? Growing in sensitivity about the needs of others is difficult when our culture is all about me. Jesus was aware of the needs of others, and He did not let His agenda interfere with meeting those needs, nor should we.

Learning to heed the stops of the Lord is just that a learning process. As we learn to watch and listen to the Holy Spirit, our lives will be fuller and actually more peaceful. It is difficult, but it is so worth it. I regret not listening to these stops in the past.

Father, I ask that you help us learn to be aware of all the stops that come our way. I thank you for helping us respond to the forced stops with expectation and joy, trusting you are working all things together for my good.. I thank you for helping us learn to celebrate communion wholeheartedly, reminding us of your loving sacrifice for us. Father, I choose to receive the stops that come from interruptions as an opportunity to grow in patience and long-suffering. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Faith and Help

I have been joining with many women of our church in a Bible study called “Amen”. It is subtitled, “the story of Scripture from Eden to Eternity”. The goal is to gain a deeper comprehension of God’s purpose and plan for history as it’s presented in the entire Bible. As we journey through this overview of the greatest story on earth, I am reminded once again how humanity need/needed a Savior. Reading about the shortcomings of Saul, David, Solomon reminds me of my own. I am so grateful we have one. That His name is Jesus, and we can know him.

If you struggle today; please remind yourself that you, too, have a Savior. Look to Him. Do not do life on your own. No matter what the struggle, He is there. Ready to help, ready to walk through any storm, difficulty and situation. But I want to remind you, He is a perfect gentleman. He does not come in, unless we ask Him. Yes, He, as a good Father, watches over our life, but to receive the most of His care, we must ask, seek and pursue Him and His ways. We must be honest to ourselves and to Him. This is not always easy, because we don’t always want to admit our needs.

Lessons I’ve learned in receiving help from the Savior.

  1. Go to Him sooner than later. Don’t wait until you are feeling overwhelmed, learn to go to Him with the smaller issues, before they become large,
  2. Don’t let your delays stop you from going when they are large!
  3. Admit you need His help.
  4. Repent if you need to. Receive His forgiveness. Forgive yourself.
  5. Remind yourself of Bible stories where He helped others, or of your own past help stories.
  6. Obey His advice, even if it means humbling yourself.
  7. Trust His direction.
  8. Be patient for His answers.
  9. Keep on walking in His ways, let His peace guard your heart.

Reminders:

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

Psalm 94:19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Faith and a Simple God Story

Today I am writing to share how thankful I am for God and how He answers personal prayer. This past week has been challenging for me, not only physically, but emotionally. I received news my old friend’s daughter passed away and there are so many others with their own pain that really affected me. I am trying to finish an enormous project, at least to me and I felt very insufficient.

I woke up determined to get a lot accomplished. My list was long, but my energy was low. I spent the day fighting discouragement. Feeling inadequate, I couldn’t focus and got very little done. As I prepared to go to bed that night, I simply sat in my chair and shared with the Lord how I was feeling. To be honest, I shed some tears. But as I sat and honestly poured out my heart to Him, I felt His loving comfort surround me. All I could do was respond with thanksgiving and peaceful worship. There is nothing more humbling and restorative than honestly sharing with the Lord. No topic is off limits. His peace, hope and comes and the troubles seem to fade away. I could feel the limiting paralysis dissipate and liberty and joy quietly taking its place. I sat and soaked in His loving presence, just enjoying being with Him. I prayed for my friends and their needs. I prayed with faith, knowing He could and would comfort and supply whatever they needed. 

After that encounter, I just knew I could go ahead. He would give me the things I needed to accomplish His purpose. His grace is totally sufficient to cover all my weaknesses. Oh, my friends, as I think back on what caused the shift, I realize that although I had been asking for help, I still tried to do it; I was relying more on my strength than His. Kind of silly, isn’t it?

I say with David in Psalm 18. I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my savior; My God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. Yes, he saved me once again from the enemy of me. My attempts to accomplish something on my own weren’t working. I thought I was leaning on Hm, but all my thoughts were on me, not Him, but when I came to the end of myself, once again He was there. I am so grateful. I wish I wish I was better at communicating just how amazing this interaction was. His presence literally freed me from myself and showed me a better way.

Are you like me, once again, trying to live this Christian life in your own strength? Are you trying to do it on your own? If so, the wonderful news is that He is no respecter of persons. Yes, He is waiting for you to take a break. Sit and have an honest heart to heart talk with the Lover of your soul. Once again, I needed that reminder, and I am so grateful I heeded it! Is there anything you need to share with Him? Don’t waste time—do it now.